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2021 Investment Company Fact Book

CHAPTER TWO

US-Registered Investment Companies

Registered investment companies are an important segment of the asset management industry in the United States. US-registered investment companies play a major role in the US economy and financial markets, and a growing role in global financial markets. These funds managed nearly $30 trillion in total net assets at year-end 2020, largely on behalf of more than 105 million US retail investors. The industry has experienced robust growth over the past quarter century from asset appreciation and strong demand from households due to rising household wealth, the aging US population, and the evolution of employer-based retirement systems. US funds supply investment capital in securities markets around the world and are important investors in the US stock and municipal securities markets.

Number of Investment Companies

The total number of investment companies* offered by US financial services companies has increased overall since 2005 (the recent low point) but remains below the recent peak at year-end 2000. During 2020, the overall number of investment companies fell by 3.2 percent (Figure 2.1), with each type, except exchange-traded funds (ETFs), contributing to the decline. The number of mutual funds decreased from 9,414 at year-end 2019 to 9,027 at year-end 2020; the number of closed-end funds fell to 494 at year-end 2020, the lowest level since the early 2000s; and the number of unit investment trusts (UITs) fell from 4,572 at year-end 2019 to 4,310 at year-end 2020. These declines contrast with the continued growth in the number of ETFs, which increased from 2,176 at year-end 2019 to 2,296 at year-end 2020.

 

* The terms investment companies and US investment companies are used at times throughout this book in place of US-registered investment companies. US-registered investment companies are open-end mutual funds, closed-end funds, exchange-traded funds, and unit investment trusts.

FIGURE 2.1

Number of Investment Companies by Type
Year-end
  Mutual funds1 ETFs2 Closed-end funds UITs Total
20008,3498048210,07218,983
20018,4801024909,29518,367
20028,4901135438,30317,449
20038,4061195817,23316,339
20048,4111526186,49915,680
20058,4392046356,01915,297
20068,7043596465,90715,616
20078,7236296646,03016,046
20088,8607436445,98416,231
20098,5948206296,04916,092
20108,5239506265,97116,070
20118,6621,1666346,04316,505
20128,7421,2396045,78716,372
20138,9701,3326015,55216,455
20149,2561,4515705,38116,658
20159,5151,6445615,18816,908
20169,5051,7745345,10016,913
20179,3541,9005325,03516,821
20189,6162,0575044,91717,094
20199,4142,1765014,57216,663
20209,0272,2964944,31016,127

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1 Mutual fund data include mutual funds that invest primarily in other mutual funds.

2 ETF data include ETFs that invest primarily in other ETFs.

Investment Company Assets

Total assets in US-registered investment companies rose by $3.7 trillion in 2020, to a year-end level of $29.7 trillion (Figure 2.2). With a combined $29.3 trillion in assets, mutual funds and ETFs accounted for the vast majority of total industry assets. However, the year-end data do not provide a complete picture of how the market turmoil from the COVID-19 pandemic affected assets of US‑registered investment companies. In the first quarter of 2020, assets fell 12 percent to $22.8 trillion, primarily reflecting a broad-based decline in domestic and international stock markets. Markets steadily recovered for the remainder of the year.

FIGURE 2.2

Investment Company Total Net Assets by Type
Billions of dollars, year-end
  Mutual funds ETFs Closed-end funds1 UITs Total2
2000$6,956$66$150$74$7,245
20016,96983145497,246
20026,380102161366,680
20037,399151216367,801
20048,093228255378,614
20058,889301276419,507
200610,3954232995011,167
200711,9956083165312,973
20089,6195311852910,364
200911,1097772243812,149
201011,8319922395113,113
201111,6301,0482446012,982
201213,0541,3372657214,728
201315,0491,6752828717,092
201415,8771,97529210118,244
201515,6582,1012639418,116
201616,3532,5252658519,227
201718,7653,4012778522,528
201817,7103,3712527021,403
201921,2914,3962797926,045
202023,8965,4492797829,702

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1 Closed-end fund data include preferred share classes.

2 Total investment company assets include mutual fund holdings of closed-end funds and ETFs.

At year-end 2020, US-registered mutual fund and ETF total net assets were concentrated in longterm funds, with equity funds alone constituting 58 percent (Figure 2.3). Domestic equity funds (those that invest primarily in shares of US corporations) held 43 percent of net assets; world equity funds (those that invest significantly in shares of non-US corporations) accounted for 14 percent. Bond funds held 21 percent of fund net assets. Money market funds, hybrid funds, and other funds— such as those that invest primarily in commodities—held the remaining 21 percent.

During 2020, mutual funds in aggregate recorded $205 billion in net inflows (Figure 3.4). Money market funds received $691 billion of net inflows as investors used government money market funds to preserve and build liquidity during the spring of 2020 (see here). Long-term mutual funds, however, saw net outflows of $486 billion in 2020. Additionally, mutual fund shareholders reinvested $268 billion in income dividends and $354 billion in capital gains distributions that mutual funds paid out during the year. Investors continued to show strong demand for ETFs, with net share issuance (which includes reinvested dividends) totaling $501 billion in 2020 (Figure 4.9). UITs experienced net new deposits of $45 billion, slightly less than in the previous year, and closed-end funds issued a net $1.5 billion in new shares (Figure 5.3).

FIGURE 2.3

The Majority of US Mutual Fund and ETF Total Net Assets Were in Equity Funds
Percentage of total net assets, year-end 2020
Figure 2.3

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* This category includes ETFs—both registered and not registered under the Investment Company Act of 1940—that invest primarily in commodities, currencies, and futures.

Americans’ Continued Reliance on Investment Companies

Households make up the largest group of investors in funds, and registered investment companies managed 23 percent of household financial assets at year-end 2020 (Figure 2.4).

FIGURE 2.4

Share of US Household Financial Assets Held in Investment Companies
Percentage of US household financial assets, year-end
Figure 2.4

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Note: Household financial assets held in registered investment companies include holdings of mutual funds, ETFs, closed-end funds, and UITs. Mutual funds held in employer-sponsored DC plans, IRAs, and variable annuities are included.

Source: Investment Company Institute and Federal Reserve Board

The growth of individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and defined contribution (DC) plans, particularly 401(k) plans, explains some of the increased household reliance on investment companies in the past three decades. IRAs made up 12 percent of household financial assets at year-end 2020, up from 4 percent in 1990, while DC plans have risen over the same period from 5 percent of household financial assets to 9 percent (with 401(k) plans alone accounting for 6 percent of household financial assets at year-end 2020).

Mutual funds made up a significant portion of DC plan assets (59 percent) and IRA assets (45 percent) at year-end 2020 (Figure 2.5). In addition, the share of DC plan assets held in mutual funds has grown over the past two decades, from 43 percent at year-end 2000 to 59 percent at year-end 2020. Mutual funds also managed $1.4 trillion in variable annuities outside retirement accounts, as well as $11.4 trillion of other assets outside retirement accounts.

FIGURE 2.5

Mutual Funds in US Household Retirement Accounts
Percentage of retirement assets in mutual funds by type of retirement vehicle
Figure 2.5

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* This category includes private-sector employer-sponsored DC plans—such as 401(k) plans—403(b) plans, 457 plans, and the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) Thrift Savings Plan (TSP).

Source: Investment Company Institute. For a complete list of sources, see Investment Company Institute, “The US Retirement Market, Fourth Quarter 2020.”

Businesses and other institutional investors also rely on funds. For instance, institutions can use money market funds to manage some of their cash and other short-term assets. At year‑end 2020, nonfinancial businesses held 20 percent, or $1.0 trillion, of their short-term assets in money market funds (Figure 2.6). Institutional investors also have contributed to the growing demand for ETFs. Investment managers—including mutual funds, pension funds, hedge funds, and insurance companies—use ETFs to invest in markets, to manage liquidity and investor flows, or to hedge their exposures.

FIGURE 2.6

Money Market Funds Managed 20 Percent of US Nonfinancial Businesses’ Short‑Term Assets in 2020
Percentage of short-term assets, year-end
Figure 2.6

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Note: US nonfinancial businesses’ short-term assets consist of foreign deposits, checkable deposits and currency, time and savings deposits, money market funds, repurchase agreements, and commercial paper.

Sources: Investment Company Institute and Federal Reserve Board

Role of Investment Companies in Financial Markets

Investment companies have been important investors in domestic financial markets for much of the past 30 years. In recent years, they have held a largely stable share of the securities outstanding across a variety of asset classes, with mutual funds accounting for the majority of the holdings. At year-end 2020, investment companies held 30 percent of US-issued equities outstanding, little changed from the 31 percent at year-end 2017 (Figure 2.7).

Investment companies held 23 percent of bonds issued by US corporations and foreign bonds held by US residents at year-end 2020, compared with 20 percent at year-end 2017. Also, investment companies held 15 percent of the US Treasury and government agency securities outstanding at year-end 2020, a share that has slightly increased over the past few years (Figure 2.7). Investment companies have been one of the largest groups of investors in the US municipal securities market, holding 29 percent of the securities outstanding at year-end 2020. Finally, mutual funds are important investors in the US commercial paper market, which is a critical source of shortterm funding for many major corporations around the world. At year-end 2020, the share of the commercial paper market held by mutual funds (primarily prime money market funds) was 22 percent, down from 26 percent at year-end 2019.

FIGURE 2.7

Investment Companies Channel Investment to Stock, Bond, and Money Markets
Percentage of total market securities held by investment companies, year-end
Figure 2.7

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1 The percentage of total US Treasury and government agency securities held by other registered investment companies was less than 0.5 percent in 2017.

2 Other registered investment companies held no commercial paper.

Sources: Investment Company Institute, Federal Reserve Board, and World Federation of Exchanges

Growth of Index Funds

Index funds are designed to track the performance of a market index. To do this, the fund manager purchases all the securities in the index or a representative sample of them—mirroring the index composition—so that the performance of the fund tracks the value of the index. This approach to portfolio management is the primary reason that index funds—which can be formed as either mutual funds or ETFs—tend to have below-average expense ratios (see Figure 6.7).

Index mutual funds were first offered in the 1970s, followed by index ETFs in the 1990s. By year‑end 2020, total net assets in these two index fund categories had grown to $9.9 trillion. Along with this growth, index fund assets have become a larger share of overall fund assets. At year-end 2020, index mutual funds and index ETFs together accounted for 40 percent of assets in long-term funds, up from 19 percent at year-end 2010 (Figure 2.8). Nevertheless, actively managed funds accounted for the majority of long-term fund assets (60 percent) at year-end 2020.

FIGURE 2.8

Index Funds Have Grown as a Share of the Fund Market
Percentage of total net assets, year-end
Figure 2.8

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Note: Data for ETFs exclude non–1940 Act ETFs. Data for mutual funds exclude money market funds.

Growth in index funds has been concentrated in funds that invest in equities. Over the past decade, 66 percent of inflows into index funds went to domestic and world equity index funds, whereas bond and hybrid index funds received 34 percent. In 2020, however, domestic and world equity index funds received only 22 percent of the total flow to index funds, while bond and hybrid index funds received the bulk (78 percent) of the total flow. Even with these inflows, bond and hybrid index funds accounted for only 19 percent of index fund assets at year-end 2020.

Despite their significant growth over the past decade, index domestic equity mutual funds and ETFs remain relatively small investors in the US stock markets, holding only 14 percent of the value of US stocks at year-end 2020 (Figure 2.9). Actively managed domestic equity mutual funds and ETFs held another 14 percent, while other investors—including hedge funds, pension funds, life insurance companies, and individuals—held the majority (72 percent).

FIGURE 2.9

Index Fund Share of US Stock Market Is Small
Percentage of US stock market capitalization, year-end
Figure 2.9

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Sources: Investment Company Institute and World Federation of Exchanges

Unit Investment Trusts

Unit investment trusts (UITs) are registered investment companies with characteristics of both mutual funds and closed-end funds. Like mutual funds, UITs issue redeemable shares (called units), and like closed-end funds, they typically issue a specific, fixed number of shares. But unlike either mutual funds or closed-end funds, UITs have a preset termination date based on the portfolio’s investments and the UIT’s investment goals. UITs investing in long-term bonds might have a preset termination date of 20 to 30 years, depending on the maturity of the bonds they hold. UITs investing in stocks might seek to capture capital appreciation in a few years or less. When a UIT terminates, proceeds from the securities are paid to unit holders or, at a unit holder’s election, reinvested in another trust.

UITs fall into two main categories: bond (or debt) trusts and equity trusts. Bond trusts are either taxable or tax-free; equity trusts are either domestic or international/global. The first UIT, introduced in 1961, held tax-free bonds, and historically, most UIT total net assets were invested in bonds. Equity UITs, however, have grown in popularity over the past three decades. Assets in equity UITs have exceeded the combined assets of taxable and tax-free bond UITs in recent years and constituted 90 percent of the assets in UITs at year-end 2020 (Figure 2.10). The number of trusts outstanding has been decreasing as sponsors created fewer new trusts and existing trusts reached their preset termination dates.

Federal law requires that UITs have a largely fixed portfolio—one that is not actively managed or traded. Once the trust’s portfolio has been selected, its composition may change only in very limited circumstances. Most UITs hold a diversified portfolio, described in detail in the prospectus, with securities professionally selected to meet a stated investment goal, such as growth, income, or capital appreciation.

Investors can obtain UIT price quotes from brokerage or investment firms and investment company websites. Some, but not all, UITs list their prices on Nasdaq’s Mutual Fund Quotation Service. Some broker-dealers offer their own trusts or sell trusts offered by nationally recognized independent sponsors. Units of these trusts can be bought through their registered representatives. Units can also be bought from the representatives of smaller investment firms that sell trusts sponsored by third-party firms.

Though a fixed number of units of a UIT are sold in a public offering, a trust sponsor is likely to maintain a secondary market, in which investors can sell their units back to the sponsor and other investors can buy those units. Even absent a secondary market, UITs are required by law to redeem outstanding units at their net asset value (NAV), which is based on the underlying securities’ current market value.

FIGURE 2.10

Total Net Assets of UITs
Billions of dollars, year-end
Figure 2.10

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Fund Complexes and Sponsors

A variety of financial services companies offer registered funds in the United States. At year‑end 2020, 81 percent of investment company complexes were independent fund advisers (Figure 2.11), managing 71 percent of investment company assets. Other types of investment company complexes in the US market include non-US fund advisers, insurance companies, banks, thrifts, and brokerage firms.

FIGURE 2.11

More Than 80 Percent of Fund Complexes Were Independent Fund Advisers
Percentage of investment company complexes by type of intermediary, year-end 2020
Figure 2.11

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In 2020, 804 fund sponsors from around the world competed in the US market to provide investment management services to fund investors (Figure 2.12). The decline in the number of fund sponsors since year-end 2015 may be due to a variety of business decisions, including larger fund sponsors acquiring smaller ones, fund sponsors liquidating funds and leaving the business, or larger sponsors selling their advisory businesses. Prior to 2015, the number of fund sponsors had been increasing as the economy and financial markets recovered from the 2007–2009 financial crisis. Overall, from 2011 through 2020, 583 sponsors entered the market while 486 left, for a net increase of 97.

FIGURE 2.12

Number of Fund Sponsors
Figure 2.12

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Many recent entrants to the fund industry have adopted solutions in which the fund’s sponsor arranges for a third party to provide certain services (e.g., audit, trustee, some legal) through a turnkey setup. This allows the sponsor to focus more on managing portfolios and gathering assets. Through an arrangement known as a series trust, the third party provides services to a number of independent fund sponsors under a single complex that serves as an “umbrella.” This can be cost-efficient because the costs of operating funds are spread across the combined assets of a number of funds in the series trust.

The increased availability of other investment products has led to changes in how investors are allocating their portfolios. The percentage of mutual fund companies retaining assets and attracting net new investments generally has been lower in recent years. In 2020, 32 percent of fund complexes saw positive flows to their long-term mutual funds, and 82 percent of ETF sponsors had positive net share issuance (Figure 2.13).

FIGURE 2.13

Positive Flows to Long-Term Mutual Funds and Positive Net Share Issuance of ETFs
Percentage of fund complexes
Figure 2.13

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Note: Long-term mutual fund data include net new cash flow and reinvested dividends; ETF data for net share issuance include reinvested dividends.

In the past decade, the percentage of fund complexes attracting new money into their long-term mutual funds has decreased, while the concentration of mutual fund and ETF assets managed by the largest fund complexes has increased. The share of assets managed by the five largest firms rose from 35 percent at year-end 2005 to 53 percent at year-end 2020, and the share managed by the 10 largest firms increased from 46 percent to 64 percent (Figure 2.14). Some of the increase in market share occurred at the expense of the middle tier of firms—those ranked from 11 to 25—whose market share fell from 21 percent in 2005 to 17 percent in 2020.

FIGURE 2.14

Share of Mutual Fund and ETF Assets at the Largest Fund Complexes
Percentage of total net assets of mutual funds and ETFs, year-end
2005 2010 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Largest 5 complexes 35 42 45 47 50 51 53 53
Largest 10 complexes 46 55 56 58 60 61 64 64
Largest 25 complexes 67 74 75 76 77 79 80 81

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Note: Data include only mutual funds and ETFs registered under the Investment Company Act of 1940.

At least two factors have contributed to the rise in industry concentration. First, the increased concentration reflects the growing popularity of index funds—the 10 largest fund complexes manage most of the assets in index mutual funds. Actively managed domestic equity mutual funds had outflows in every year after 2005, while domestic equity index mutual funds had inflows in each of these years except for 2020. Domestic equity index ETFs had positive net share issuance in each of these years. Second, strong inflows over the past decade to bond mutual funds (Figure 3.10), which are fewer in number and are less likely to be offered by smaller fund sponsors, helped boost the share of assets managed by large fund complexes.

Macroeconomic conditions and competitive dynamics can affect the supply of funds offered for sale. Fund sponsors create new funds to meet investor demand and merge or liquidate those that do not attract sufficient investor interest. A total of 581 mutual funds and ETFs opened in 2020, up from 539 in 2019, but well below the 2010–2019 annual average of 762 (Figure 2.15). The number of mutual fund and ETF mergers and liquidations increased from 616 in 2019 to 826 in 2020.

FIGURE 2.15

Number of Mutual Funds and ETFs Entering and Leaving the Industry
Figure 2.15

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Note: Long-term mutual fund data include net new cash flow and reinvested dividends; ETF data for net share issuance include reinvested dividends.

Fund Proxy Voting Reflects Heterogeneous Industry

Investment companies are major shareholders of public companies. At year-end 2020, they held 30 percent of US-issued equities outstanding, a number that has changed little over the past several years (Figure 2.7). Like any company shareholder, they are entitled to vote on proxy proposals put forth by a company’s board or its shareholders. Funds normally delegate proxy voting responsibilities to fund advisers, which have a fiduciary duty to vote in the best interest of fund shareholders.

During proxy year 2017 (the 12 months that ended June 30, 2017), shareholders of the 3,000 largest public companies considered 25,045 proposals—98 percent (24,580) of which were proposed by management and 2 percent (465) were submitted by shareholders. Investment companies cast more than 7.6 million votes on these proposals, with each investment company voting, on average, on about 1,500 separate proxy proposals. Because management proposals account for the bulk of proxy proposals, 70.7 percent of funds’ votes were cast on management proposals related to uncontested elections of directors, with an additional 13.2 percent and 9.3 percent related to management proposals on management compensation and ratification of audit firms, respectively.

Investment companies voted in favor of management proposals 94.0 percent of the time. The strong support for management proxy proposals likely reflects that the vast majority of them are not controversial—81 percent of management proposals were uncontested elections of directors and ratifications of the audit firms that companies selected.

During the same 2017 proxy year, 4.1 percent of the votes that investment companies cast were on the 465 shareholder proxy proposals. Among the shareholder proposals, about half were related to social and environmental matters; a quarter to board structures and elections; and the remainder to shareholder rights and antitakeover issues, compensation matters, and miscellaneous issues. Shareholder proxy proposals received support from investment companies, on average, 34.6 percent of the time.

Investment companies’ support for shareholder proposals varied considerably depending on a range of factors. These factors included, among other things, the details of the proposal, the issuer to whom the proposal applied, and the backdrop and context in which the proposal was set. Investment companies tend to offer more support for shareholder proxy proposals that are likely to increase their rights as company shareholders. For example, investment companies voted in favor of shareholder proxy proposals related to shareholder rights or antitakeover measures nearly 50 percent of the time in proxy year 2017.

Investment companies, on average, have provided more limited support for social and environmental proposals. In proxy year 2017, these proposals received a favorable vote 25.2 percent of the time. Average levels of support can mask important nuances of how investment companies vote on such issues. These kinds of proposals, though classified generally as “social and environmental,” cover a wide array of issues, including the environment, diversity in hiring practices, human rights matters, and issues about the safety of a company’s business operations.

In addition, these proposals must be viewed in context. For example, suppose virtually identical proposals are directed to two different companies. An investment company might view the proposal as appropriate for the first company, but inappropriate for the second because the latter has already taken steps to address the proposal’s concerns.

In short, there is no one-size-fits-all description of how funds vote, other than to say that investment companies seek to vote in the interests of their shareholders and in a way that is consistent with their investment objectives and policies.

For more information about investment company proxy voting, see ICI Research Perspective, “Proxy Voting by Registered Investment Companies, 2017.”

Environmental, Social, and Governance Investing

Perhaps one of the most significant recent global trends is the increasing interest in environmental, social, and governance (ESG) matters. These matters vary widely but are generally considered to include topics related to climate change, diversity and inclusion, human rights, the rights of company shareholders, and companies’ compensation structures. The fund industry is responding to increased investor interest in ESG investing by, among other things, creating new funds that explicitly tailor their investments to specific ESG criteria.

Funds consider ESG factors to varying degrees. For decades, some funds have incorporated ESG factors into their investment processes as a way to enhance fund performance, manage investment risks, and identify emerging investment risks and opportunities, much as they would consider macroeconomic or interest rate risks, idiosyncratic business risks, and investment exposures to particular companies, industries, or geographical regions. Because these funds “integrate” ESG factors into the investment process, this type of investing is known as ESG integration.

Funds’ use of ESG integration is distinct from funds’ use of “sustainable investing strategies.” Sustainable investing is a strategy that uses ESG analysis as a significant part of the fund’s investment thesis as a way to pursue investment returns and ESG-related outcomes.

Approaches to ESG Investing

The investment strategies funds use vary, as do the ways they describe their approaches. This section describes some of the most common approaches.

  • Exclusionary investing: Investment strategies that exclude, or “screen out,” investments in particular industries or companies that do not meet certain ESG criteria. This may also be described as negative screening, sustainable, or socially responsible investing (SRI).
  • Inclusionary investing: Investment strategies that generally seek investment returns by pursuing a strategic investing thesis focusing on investments that systematically tilt a portfolio based on ESG factors alongside traditional financial analysis. This may also be described as best-in-class, ESG thematic investing, ESG tilt, positive screening, or sustainable investing.
  • Impact investing: Investment strategies that seek to generate positive, measurable social and environmental impact alongside a financial return. This may also be described as community, goal-based, sustainable, or thematic investing.

These common approaches to ESG investing are not mutually exclusive—that is, a single fund may use multiple approaches (e.g., a best-in-class fund that excludes certain types of investments). As a result, seeking to classify funds that invest according to ESG criteria as solely exclusionary, inclusionary, or impact can be challenging. Applying ICI’s long-standing general approach to classifying funds enables research into these funds (e.g., tracking data and monitoring trends).

How ICI Categorizes Funds for Research and Statistical Purposes

ICI seeks to categorize funds as objectively as possible by applying predetermined rules and definitions to the prospectus language of mutual funds, ETFs, and closed-end funds, with a special focus on the “investment objective” and “principal investment strategies” sections.

For example, ICI Research uses prospectus language to determine in which of four broad categories to place a fund: equity, bond, hybrid, or money market. Funds are then placed in subcategories—for example, classifying equity funds as large-, mid-, or small-cap; or bond funds as investment grade or high-yield. To keep fund classifications up to date, ICI monitors funds’ prospectuses for material revisions.

This approach produces fund classifications that are consistent and relatively stable, which is very helpful when monitoring current and historical trends in fund data.

Using ICI’s Approach to Classify Funds That Invest According to ESG Criteria

ICI’s approach to classifying funds (see here) can be applied in a straightforward manner to all types of funds that invest according to ESG criteria. ICI Research reviews the prospectuses for a vast number of mutual funds and ETFs, examining the investment objective and principal investment strategies sections for language indicating that a fund places an important and explicit emphasis on environmental, social, or governance criteria to achieve certain goals.

Following this approach, in 2020, 592 mutual funds and ETFs with assets of $465 billion (Figure 2.16) would be classified generally as investing according to exclusionary, inclusionary, or impact investing ESG criteria. This is a sharp increase from year-end 2019—when there were 511 funds with assets of $321 billion—reflecting growing investor interest in these funds.

FIGURE 2.16

Number and Total Net Assets of Funds That Invest According to ESG Criteria
By focus, year-end
Figure 2.16

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Note: Data include mutual funds and ETFs. Data include mutual funds that invest primarily in other mutual funds and ETFs that invest primarily in other ETFs.

Among funds that use such criteria in selecting their investments, ICI uses prospectus language to classify these funds into groups based on the frameworks or guidelines expressed at the forefront of their principal investment strategies sections. Funds in these groups emphasize:

  • Broad ESG focus: These funds focus broadly on ESG matters. They consider all three elements of ESG (rather than focusing on one or two of the considerations) or may include ESG in their names. Index funds in this group may track a socially responsible index such as the MSCI KLD 400 Social Index.
  • Environmental focus: These funds focus more narrowly on environmental matters. They may include terms such as “alternative energy,” “climate change,” “clean energy,” “environmental solutions,” or “low carbon” in their principal investment strategies or fund names.
  • Religious values focus: These funds invest in accordance with specific religious values.
  • Other focus: These funds focus more narrowly on some combination of environmental, social, or governance elements, but not all three. They often negatively screen to eliminate certain types of investments.

Of the 592 funds at the end of 2020, 233 funds with assets of $167 billion fall into the broad ESG focus subcategory; 56 funds with assets of $28 billion in the environmental focus subcategory; 144 funds with assets of $119 billion in the religious values focus subcategory; and 159 funds with assets of $152 billion in the other focus subcategory (Figure 2.16).

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